Yesterday was a turning point

By | Wed February 25, 2015

Yesterday was a turning point in my journey towards wellness. I pushed outside of my current comfort zone and drove up to Berkeley to attend an academic conference. It was located at the conference center, which inside was rather dreary, but had a tulip tree in bloom in the sunny outdoor quad (thought I’d taken a picture, but I don’t seem to have it).

On the drive up, I had an ah-ha moment. It came to me how I might be able to pull together a dissertation based upon my research. I don’t know yet if it will work, but it is encouraging to be thinking along those lines again. It is also encouraging to see a path that gets me to the finish line.

My poster presentation went well. I got a chance to talk about my research giving 5 or 6 5-10 minute presentation. I also survived standing on my feet for the full hour!

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During the conference sessions, I was fully aware of my current disabilities. I couldn’t just get up and move between rooms if the session was not interesting. I was physically not able to get up without significant effort. I move more like a 90 year old women, than one of my meagre 44 years. This is not obvious to anyone who sees me – at least not obvious until I try to maneuver myself out of a chair. Then a keen observer will notice my slow movements and my facial expressions as I take the first couple of painful steps (after the first couple of steps the pain eases as I get used to it and my joints unstiffen). The conference also involved climbing a set of stairs. After the session, I was walking down the stairs during the rush between sessions. Again, this is when it become clear that I don’t move like I used to. Going down stairs is a much slower process, and people had to pass me or wait patiently behind me.

Conferences aren’t great at appreciating the difficulties one might have with moving around. They also often have standing room only receptions. These are great for those who can move around freely on their feet, but this poses an extra challenge for me in my current condition.

One interesting part happened when someone said they knew me from an online space. I was immediately struck with the ‘how do I answer that’? Up until that point, no one mentioned cancer. No one had any sign that I was someone who had been through breast cancer (unless they recognized my chemo-hair – but no one indicated anything about it). She mentioned that she knew me from a MOOC space, so I listed the MOOCs I’ve been most recently in – treading lightly on the cancer subject – I mentioned the Patient Engagement MOOC and MedX – she said no. Then I mentioned Rhizo (a MOOC on rhizomatic learning that started last January and has resulted in an ongoing community of inquiry). Sigh! She knows me from rhizo, which means she may know of my breast cancer journey, but more likely knows me in a more academic context. It is always cool to meet fellow members of the Rhizo community. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to talk further, as I was presenting and others wanted to hear about my poster.

After the session, I hopped in the car and drove home before the traffic got bad. I realized that I can get to the Berkeley conference center is just over an hour, and the drive was not nearly as bad as I feared. I had originally planned on taking transit, but the conference center isn’t that close to the subway stop, and the added walking would mean I wouldn’t be able to stand to do my presentation. Again, another way my current disability affects my decisions.

So, why do I say this was a day of transition? Because I officially re-claimed my identity as a scholar. Nothing about what I presented was about cancer. I realized that I needed to be my ed tech self, and not my cancer self. Reclaiming my dissertation and pushing to finish it might be exactly the therapy I need to recover from this journey. I do think I need to distance myself from it for a bit – that is, start focusing on non-cancer stuff for a bit – or at least looking at things through a non-cancer lens. If for no other reason, then because it reduces my anxiety and makes it easier for me to sleep at night. It gives me a way to see a future beyond the next month or two, and allows me to re-focus on my life again.

With this transition, you may see me blog less here, and more on my academic blog – http://rjh.goingeast.ca. You may not. I will still blog my cancer journey here, it is just that I wont be focusing as much here as I will be in other spaces on the web – and that is a good thing!

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